The Supreme Court held yesterday that an Alabama death row inmate had “constitutionally deficient” counsel at trial. The Court agreed that Anthony Hinton, who was convicted of two 1985 murders, “is entitled to a new trial if he was prejudiced by his lawyer's deficient performance.” The Equal Justice Initiative reports on the case and includes the per curiam opinion.
The New York Times editorial board calls on the Obama administration to address the lack of due process for federal immigrant detainees who are being held without bond hearings. The paper cites a plethora of cases involving the detention of immigrants without hearings or formal charges—evidence of a broken immigration system.
The United Automobile Workers filed a formal objection with the National Labor Relations Board after Volkswagen workers at a Chattanooga, Tennessee plant decided not to join the UAW. Lydia DePillis at The Washington Post considers the possibility that the UAW “get a do-over in Chattanooga.”
In an article for The New Yorker, Jeffrey Toobin argues why Clarence Thomas’ behavior on the bench is “demeaning the Court.”
The American Bar Association Standards Review Committee is considering a recommendation that the ABA no longer prohibit law students from receiving money for internships and externships. Karen Sloan of The National Law Journal has the story.
In their debut article for The Intercept, Jeremy Scahill and Glenn Greenwald examine the National Security Agency’s controversial role in targeting terror suspects for lethal drone strikes and the effectiveness of geolocating technology.
Dallas District Attorney Craig Watkins created the nation's first Conviction Integrity Unit. In an interview with NPR’s Melissa Block, Watkins discusses the 87 overturned convictions in the U.S. in 2013 and what is being done in Dallas County to prevent miscarriages of justice.
With the U.S. Supreme Court returning to session on February 24, the justices could soon rule on whether legislative prayer violates the Establishment Clause. Michael Kirkland at UPI breaks down Town of Greece v. Galloway.
President Obama promised but failed to shutter the Guantánamo Bay military prison and has refused to launch an investigation into the use of torture at the prison and other unknown or “black sites.” But groups like Human Rights Watch and many others, including inmates at the prison, strive to highlight the injustices and atrocities of the prison, rendition and military commissions.
It’s not an easy endeavor in a nation where polls suggest that many people are not terribly concerned about the rights of people who the American government has labeled terrorist suspects. In a piece for The New York Times op-ed page that garnered notice, Samir Najl al Hasan Moqbel, a prisoner at Guantánamo for more than 10 years, explained his reasons for going on a hunger strike. He’s never been charged with a crime, he has been left to languish in a dark hole, where prison officials brutally force-feed him. “The situation is desperate now,” he writes. “All of the detainees are suffering deeply. At least 40 people are on a hunger strike. People are fainting with exhaustion every day. I have vomited blood.”
It has been widely documented that military detainees have been tortured at Guantánamo and other unknown or “black” sites overseas, with the knowledge of top administration officials in the administration of George W. Bush. In 2011, Human Rights Watch issued a report documenting evidence that top Bush administration officials, including the president, approved of torture. (Office of Legal Counsel memoranda were eventually made public reveling the lengths attorneys took to justify torture.) The Constitution Project, as reported by The New York Times’ Scott Shane, has released an exhaustive report, more like a book, that adds “considerable detail” to the treatment of military detainees. See the group’s Task Force on Detainee Treatment.
Another report from Seton Hall School of Law provides more evidence that the Guantánamo military tribunals are a sham.
Law Professor Mark Denbeaux, director of the law school’s policy and research center, said government surveillance of conversations between attorneys and military detainees greatly undermines the already wobbly legitimacy of the military commissions.
Damien Corsetti was an interrogator at the Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan in 2002, where, according to The New York Times, he was known as the “King of Torture.” In 2006, he was prosecuted for alleged abusive treatment he committed while an interrogator, but was acquitted. Nevertheless, he told our Witness to Guantanamo project that he had mistreated his prisoners.
When he began working in summer 2002, Corsetti believed in what he was doing. He thought they were all guilty and, like most Americans, he was angry. He explained how he had obtained information regarding several alleged plots through his interrogations in time for the U.S. to intervene and prevent the incidents from occurring. He saved American lives.
In the months that followed, however, he and other interrogators began to have doubts about their work. They asked a Judge Advocate General, or JAG lawyer, for advice. The JAG attorney assured them that their actions were legal because the Bush administration had decided not to adhere to the Geneva Conventions. After hearing the JAG assessment, Corsetti felt obligated to follow orders.
Corsetti told us how he would hood prisoners, tighten the cord at the neck, and then pour water over the hood. The process wasn’t quite the same as “waterboarding,” but the detainees did experience the sensation of drowning or suffocating.
He forced prisoners into extremely uncomfortable and awkward “stress positions” for hours. He noted how the military later renamed the term “stress positions” to “safety positions,” explaining that the safety positions were for the safety of the interrogators and the military personnel on the base, not the detainees.
When the Supreme Court takes up the Voting Rights Act case this week, Shelby County v. Holder, the Justices will focus on this question: Whether Congress had authority under the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to require certain jurisdictions to gain federal preclearance before making any changes to their election laws. But lurking in the background of the Question Presented is a curious nod to federalism. Thus the Court will ask if Congress exceeded its authority, then did it violate the Tenth Amendment and Article IV—provisions that, according to the petitioner, protect states’ rights.
We might wonder where this federalism concern comes from. After all, neither the Tenth Amendment nor Article IV limits federal authority because of states’ rights. Neither provision says anything about the substantive scope of federal authority; and neither provision obviously grants a claim of states’ rights. Instead, they simply outline the necessary relationship between the federal government and the states in a federal system like ours. These provisions are, at most, a blueprint for federalism. They add nothing to the core question of congressional authority, the real issue in the case.